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Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever Hardcover – 8 Nov 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (8 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479807
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.4 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Can literature change your life? Yes ... along came Will Hermes, who cost me several hundred pounds on iTunes and ruptured my relationship with guitars (Nick Hornby Believer magazine)

It was the best of times, it was the best of places: Will Hermes captures the creative incandescence of New York in those five years that changed music (Richard Williams)

Brings depth and discernment and an eye for odd detail, making his book an essential work of cultural history (Luc Sante) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Master Shake on 21 July 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a good book as far as it goes, and it definitely gives a sense of the massive amount of musical creativity in NYC in the mid-70s, but ultimately that's about all it does. While it's trying to do something different to, say, 'England's Dreaming' by jon Savage, it doesn't get anywhere near the depth, importance, and perceptiveness of that book. More on the visual arts in all forms and fashion too (and possibly literature - why does nobody who writes about Television ever discuss poetry?) I really can't agree with Nick Hornby that this is 'social history' - it's not - it's music writing with occasional historical references. Various bits of history come and go, and are dealt with fairly well, but they're really nothing more than throwaway references - the Son of Sam killer, for instance, pops up in a fairly sinister way at a couple of points, but later on other shootings he was responsible for are tossed away in half a sentence.

also - I realise the author didn't have an indefinite amount of space - but the choices of which people to follow seems arbitrary. It's nice to see Latin music given some attention, and jazz too, but there's nothing about, for instance, broadway musicals.

Oddly for a book like this, the personal recollections are among the best bits - I'd have liked more of them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kirk McElhearn TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Sep 2013
Format: Hardcover
First, a disclaimer: I knew Will very well back in the mid- to late-70s; we hung out together and went to many concerts. (A whole group of us were regular concert goers.) So my opinion of this book is certainly influenced by that personal connection.

In any case, Will looks at a somewhat arbitrary 5-year period in the 70s (he easily could have extended it a year or two in either direction), and goes into great detail about the NYC music scene during that time. Not only did it see the rise of groups from CBGBs and Max's Kansas City (Talking Heads, Ramones and others), the minimalists (Steve Reich, Philip Glass), performance artists, and the early days of hip-hop, but it also was a key time for the ascendancy of salsa, singer-songwriter rock (Springsteen, Patti Smith, etc.) and jazz. Will was always an eclectic listener, and among my friends, was the one with the most varied record collection. He writes here about all these styles of music - yes, even disco, which sucked - with erudition and feeling.

As I look back on the 70s from a distance, I realize that not only were those formative years for my own musical tastes, but that they did, indeed, have lasting influence. Will points out how much of this gestation was under the radar for years before becoming influential, and highlights a number of forgotten musicians and artists that were essential back in the day. (And there were plenty of non-NYC bands that passed through: the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis - okay, I was a prog rock fan), Santana, the country rock bands like Lynard Skynard and the Marshall Tucker Band, and so much more.)

New York City in the late 70s was an amazing city for concerts.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Satchwell VINE VOICE on 21 Aug 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a really interesting book...I guess it was quite different to what I expected. I'm a big fan of ..I guess late 70's Punk,New Wave ...whatever tag you want to apply.
So I thought this would cover my usual points of interest....Talking Heads/Ramones/Patti Smith/Television and Richard Hell..Noo York Dolls.
Well you get this..but you also get so much more about what else was going on musically in New York....loads of stuff running along in parallell...like the Disco and latin stuff
Plus...the birth and development of rap and graffiti culture.
Lets just say my mind was opened..!!...an amazing amount happened in such a short space of time...and I was lucky enough to be a teenager at this time..Ok....so I wasn't hanging out in the Bronx..
more like the bus stop in a small market town in Shropshire...!! but music was soooo....exciting for me back then..
A great read...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overview of the NY music scenes in the 70's punk/new wave , salsa, Reich and Glass , Jazz and all points in between , Springsteen being an adopted native. From punch-ups and squabbles to the state of a certain gig's toilets many bases are linked and covered and by the end of the book you'll want to investigate people like Meredith Monk and Reuben Blades. Yes, Talking Heads feature prominently as do Lou Read and his missus . The only thing possibly missing is the link with poetry and literature (other than Ginsberg and Burroughs), comedy/stand up and the visual arts (other than Andy Warhol) . A book to keep near the bedside for quick browsing that can last an hour or two , utterly reccomended
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 29 reviews
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
To understand a critical period in music history 21 Dec 2011
By Kirk McElhearn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First, a disclaimer: I knew Will very well back in the mid- to late-70s; we hung out together and went to many concerts. (A whole group of us were regular concert goers.) So my opinion of this book is certainly influenced by that personal connection.

In any case, Will looks at a somewhat arbitrary 5-year period in the 70s (he easily could have extended it a year or two in either direction), and goes into great detail about the NYC music scene during that time. Not only did it see the rise of groups from CBGBs and Max's Kansas City (Talking Heads, Ramones and others), the minimalists (Steve Reich, Philip Glass), performance artists, and the early days of hip-hop, but it also was a key time for the ascendancy of salsa, singer-songwriter rock (Springsteen, Patti Smith, etc.) and jazz. Will was always an eclectic listener, and among my friends, was the one with the most varied record collection. He writes here about all these styles of music - yes, even disco, which sucked - with erudition and feeling.

As I look back on the 70s from a distance, I realize that not only were those formative years for my own musical tastes, but that they did, indeed, have lasting influence. Will points out how much of this gestation was under the radar for years before becoming influential, and highlights a number of forgotten musicians and artists that were essential back in the day. (And there were plenty of non-NYC bands that passed through: the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis - okay, I was a prog rock fan), Santana, the country rock bands like Lynard Skynard and the Marshall Tucker Band, and so much more.)

New York City in the late 70s was an amazing city for concerts. My friends and I would go to one or two a month, and many more in the summer (we'd hang out on the hill beside the Wollman skating rink in Central Park to listen to many of the concerts that we didn't care enough to pay for. Madison Square Garden, the Palladium, even the Nassau Coliseum were places we frequented, seeing shows by the big rock bands of the time, and in smaller venues, seeing an even broader range of performers. (And in spite of our lack of funds, these concerts were affordable.)

So there's a lot of nostalgia for me in the book. For others, who are younger, or not from NYC, you'll certainly learn a lot about the music scene, but especially understand how much of a connection there was among the different genres of the time. If you love music, read this book; you'll enjoy it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Tying the Knots 22 Feb 2013
By Soulboogiealex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I’ve often felt that in the mainstream rock press mainly ignored the advent of Hip Hop and Disco and overstated the importance of Punk Rock. The cultural significance of Hip Hop and Disco often found little appreciation with writers on popular culture. Only in recent years has Rolling Stone magazine begun to take Hip Hop serious for example, a mere 40 years after its conception.

Will Hermes book does a lot to place Hip Hop and Disco in the proper context. Not only does he seem to have a fond appreciation of the genres, he places them against a political and social economical backdrop that does a lot in explaining why the genres would grow as big as they did. Such insights were long overdue in writings about popular culture.

But the book even goes further than that. Will Hermes restores Bruce Springsteen’s place in the early seventies Rock and Punk scene. Because Springsteen became an act of mega proportions it is easy to forget how close he was to acts like the Tuff Darts, the Dictators and the Heartbreakers early in his career when he played the same joints as the Ramones and Patti Smith.

Hermes also analyses parallel developments in classical music, Jazz and Latin-American music. Minimalism seems to have been a common trend across the board as a response to the dire economical times.

Will Hermes often writes form the perspective as a fan, tells about his own experiences seeing some of the now legendary acts when they were just coming up, thus adding a contagious flavour to the book. But he also seems to have gone to great lengths to familiarize himself with the genres that did not necessarily play an important part in the soundtrack of his youth.

The book portraits a full picture of an era without coming of too academic. Though the book comes off as a bit fragmentary at times I applaud the author in how he avoids creating connections where there are none, but leaves the reader to discover the common thread. Will Hermes has managed an enthusiastic but to the point style, which left me curious for music I would not have considered listening to before reading this book. I highly recommend reading Love Goes to Buildings on Fire with a little help from Spotify, mister Hermes and the music will take you on a trip through the Big Apple that by now has (sadly) disappeared.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Love Goes.... 11 July 2012
By Roon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Captures a time and place of music history that is endlessly re-attempted. This book makes you feel like you were there. Caution: You may end up buying a lot of new records you didn't know you should already own.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Everything but what matters 12 July 2013
By gtra1n - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Love Goes to Buildings on Fire" is a social history of music, of a sort. Except it's not a history, it's a set of anecdotes laid out consecutively through a five year time period that, as the subtitle indicates, changed the world of music. Not a bad premise at all, considering that the period saw the advent of punk music, the repetitive minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and the creative melding of roots-jazz, fusion and free music in the loft-based jazz avant-garde. Hermes tells you when and where people played, and what records they put out, seasoned with some of his personal experiences, but tells you almost nothing about the music.

It's a problem for what purports to be a music history. But then this is music history Rolling Stone style, where it's about who know who and who slept with who and what dugs they took. You'll never know about any developments of rhythm, structure, harmony, anything, because pop-music critics like Hermes, whether they may have good 'taste' or not, don't know how music is made, how musicians listen and work together. So while you can read about so-and-so musician playing such-and-such music, you have no idea what the quality was, how they got there and why it matters. His knowledge of pop music is decent enough, he has heard enough of minimalism to appreciate it, he can't hear jazz and his coverage of latin music is dutiful and seems mostly about music he's never heard.

The book actually makes little attempt to connect any of these different musics, except in the obvious and unsurprising affinity between artists like Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. There is a forced epilogue that all of a sudden makes and argument for aesthetic cross-fertilization, but it's nothing more than an assertion and, in a city and era when so many musicians were moving between pop, jazz and latin, he has absolutely no example of ideas moving between those genres. It's interesting enough to read as it goes along, but leaves no impression at the close.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Moves Quickly 16 July 2013
By BPM NY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As some other reviewers have noted, the book jumps around quite a bit. Initially, I found it really frustrating how quickly the author would jump from subject to subject, as I frequently wanted more depth than was provided. However, as the book developed, I found that the pacing of the book really helped reinforce the author's viewpoint of what these times were like, and all of the interesting acts competing for a young man's attention. And, as the book unfolded, there was a lot of depth provided on many different artists/subjects. I also liked that it was not just about the punk movement, but encompassed a wide range of other musics. All in all, a really great read, and very informative. It's really a shame that the Kindle edition was not full to all sorts of links to the different subjects, but there is a handy list at the end of suggested sources to get deeper into some of the subjects.
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